Agricultural Development in Jordan
Although the agricultural sector’s share of GNP declined in comparison with other sectors of the economy, farming remained economically important and production grew in absolute terms. Between 1975 and 1985, total production of cereals and beans rose by almost 150 percent, and production of vegetables rose by more than 200 percent, almost all of the increase occurring between 1975 and 1980. Production of certain cash export crops, such as olives, tobacco, and fruit, more than quadrupled. Because farming had remained labor-intensive, by one estimate about 20 percent to 30 percent of the male work force continued to depend on farming for its livelihood.
Even with increased production, the failure of agriculture to keep pace with the growth of the rest of the economy, however, resulted in an insufficient domestic food supply. Jordan thus needed to import such staples as cereals, grains, and meat. Wheat imports averaged about 350,000 tons (12.9 million bushels) per year, ten to twenty times the amount produced domestically. Red meat imports cost more than JD30 million per year, and onion and potato imports cost between JD3 million and JD4 million per year. Between 1982 and 1985, the total food import bill averaged about JD180 million per year, accounting for more than 15 percent of total imports during the period. At the same time, cash crop exports—for example, the export of 7,000 metric tons of food to Western Europe in 1988—generated about JD40 million per year, yielding a net food deficit of JD140 million. One emerging problem in the late 1980s was the erosion of Jordan’s traditional agricultural export market. The wealthy oil-exporting states of the Arabian Peninsula, concerned about their “food security,” were starting to replace imports from Jordan with food produced domestically at costs far higher than world market prices, using expensive desalinated water.